What does a Japanese exchange student love about Austin? Cheese pizza, Whataburger and wakeboarding

When you’re a foreign exchange student from Japan studying in Austin for a month, you might not expect wakeboarding to be part of the experience.  

Or churro-flavored Chex mix, or ukulele pop song performances from your host. But that’s what 15-year-old Chiharu Sano got when she drew the lucky straw to stay with me and my two kids for a weekend over the summer.

Chiharu stayed with us through the Texas Intensive English Program’s monthlong language and culture program, which the organization has been hosting for 20 years. This year, 61 students came in July to Austin from Mishima, Japan, near the slopes of Mount Fuji. All the students get to stay with a host family for a weekend. Some families host more than one student, and some host families also participate in a monthlong exchange with students from the program in January.

Chiharu is a dancer and a nature lover whom I first met at a barbecue the weekend before her stay. We quickly bonded over playing sports, swimming and shopping.

At the meet-and-greet barbecue, I also met Marcelle Vasquez, who has been hosting Japanese exchange students through this program for 14 years.

She grew up in Peru, where her parents were part of Rotary International. “I grew up in a family where we always had people coming through the house,” she said. “We appreciated many cultures and had that spirit of international hospitality.”

When her boys were teens, she wanted to introduce them to the same exchange, so she started hosting students for the weekend. After more than a decade, Vasquez also began hosting students for the month in January. Vasquez says she has learned over the years that the students, who do activities all over Austin, really enjoy just being at the house, watching movies and talking about life stuff. “They want to be part of the family while they are here,” she says.

After all these years hosting students, she receives postcards, pictures and gifts from her past guests and looks forward to the visit every year.

Chiharu had already been in Austin for three weeks by the time we picked her up from a building near the University of Texas, where she and the other students were staying. It was a Friday afternoon, and we drove straight to Home Slice on North Loop. By the time our large cheese pizza — half pepperoni — arrived, all three of the kids were playing with balls of pizza dough and sharing basic details with each other about school, siblings and favorite activities.

“We don’t have anything like this,” she said, referring to both the restaurant and the style of pizza.

We found out that Chiharu had climbed to the top of Mount Fuji when she was a kid and that her favorite band was K-Pop band BTS.

Later that night, we took turns showing each other videos online to explain the things we’d been talking about. We watched “Anpanman,” the long-running series about a cartoon bread man, and BTS music videos, and showed her “Adventure Time” and a best of Beyonce playlist.

We went to a bake sale on Saturday morning, where we picked up that cinnamon-spiced Chex mix, and then went through the drive-thru at Whataburger, where Chiharu marveled at the size of the Styrofoam cup of soda. With burgers and fries to fuel us, we headed out to Quest ATX, the wakeboarding park and water obstacle course in southeast Travis County.

We played hard on the inflatable obstacle course, the physical activity setting aside the need to communicate through language. By that point, we’d shared many rewarding conversations, but it was so nice to play and laugh and try a new physical challenge together.

On our second full day together, Chiharu and I made breakfast. We had occasional help from my kids, but it was mostly a time for us to continue doing what we both came here to do: share culture.

She made the connections between the Dr. Seuss book that my youngest read to her and the art we saw at Art on Fifth on South Lamar, a favorite stop whenever we go to Half Price Books.

As we drove through the city, I told her about the various neighborhoods and businesses, touching on historical and cultural connections I wanted her to make. We went to H-E-B and H-Mart and talked about Americans’ love of fast food, slow food and global cuisines and why that has grown so much in recent decades.

Sadly, the weekend of her visit, I needed to go to a memorial service for a friend who had died unexpectedly the week before. The service started hours before we were scheduled to drop her off. She wasn’t eager for the weekend to end, and neither were we, so I told her about what I knew would be a casual and kid-friendly gathering for my friend. I tried to describe why I wanted to go and what it would be like and then asked her if she wanted to go back to the dorm or come with us. She decided to stick around.

With beers in coolers and attendees in shorts, the memorial service was lighthearted and sad, funny and heartbreaking, celebrating the life of a young philanthropist and dog-lover who was dedicated to helping foster kids. Alongside my own children, who have been to a number of memorial services in their short lives, Chiharu was able to see a side of American culture that many visitors might not, and although I think she was surprised to see the beer, I could tell how much being part of the event meant to her.

Forty-eight hours didn’t seem like much time to bond, but we squeezed the most we could out of our time together. I didn’t cry when I dropped her off, but I told her in all seriousness that my family had added another bucket item to our life list: traveling to Japan to climb Mount Fuji with her.

Thanks to Instagram, we’ve been able to stay in touch with her in the weeks since her visit, not unlike how we have with the AirBnB family whom we stayed with in Mexico City in May. In a way, that was my family’s own little weekend family exchange, and it helped me understand what Vasquez explained at the barbecue: The connections that you make when you open up your home to someone who is as interested in your culture as you are about theirs will stick with you forever, no matter if you’re the host or the guest.

Syrian, Iraqi refugees to prepare Hope & Sesame dinner on Sunday

If you’ve ever wanted to try Syrian and Iraqi cuisine, Sunday is your chance.

Austin doesn’t have many Middle Eastern restaurants that specialize in these cuisines, but thanks to Hope & Sesame, a nonprofit whose mission is “empowering recently-resettled refugees through opportunities to integrate economically and socially into the Austin community,” a group of Syrian and Iraqi cooks will be preparing a dinner at 7 p.m. Sunday at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, 8134 Mesa Drive, to raise money for the organization.

Hope & Sesame has hosted several of these dinners in the past year, including several with a focus on Afghani cuisine.

What’s on the menu? They organizers haven’t said exactly, but guests can expect vegetarian and gluten-free options, as well as some including meat. In keeping with Muslim customs, this event is alcohol-free.

Tickets cost a suggested donation of $70, but the organization has encouraged people who want to attend to come, even if they can’t donate that amount. You can find out more about the organization and find out more about upcoming events at hopeandsesame.org.

Willie Nelson adds $5,000 grant to Austin Food & Wine Alliance giveaway

The Austin Food & Wine Alliance has a new backer you might have heard of.

After last year’s fundraiser at Willie Nelson’s ranch near Spicewood, Austin’s most beloved citizen has donated $5,000 to add another grant for the nonprofit’s culinary innovation grants.

Willie Nelson has donated $5,000 to the Austin Food & Wine Alliance for a grant to support local culinary innovators. Scott Moore for American-Statesman

Over the past seven years, the food and wine alliance has granted nearly $200,000 in grants to local food businesses, chefs and food startups.

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At an awards ceremony in December, they’ll give away an additional $60,000, including a new $5,000 Luck, Texas grant from the one and only Willie. That grant will be “awarded to a chef who follows his/her dreams without compromise and whose inspiration and vision have similarly contributed to the American roots narrative by leaving a distinctive mark on culinary culture.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 12, via austinfoodwinealliance.org.

Past recipients have included farmers, artisan producers, chefs, wine/beer/spirits makers and small culinary businesses/culinary professionals, including Argus Cidery, Salt & Time Butcher Shop & Salumeria, Blacklands Malt, New Farm Institute at Green Gate Farms and Miche Bread.

In addition to hosting several high-profile food fundraiser events throughout the year, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance is hosting its annual Culinary Arts Career Conference next week, which will bring together more than 500 culinary students from the Austin area.

“Being able to support and enable the dreams of so many in our community is truly a heartfelt mission for our organization,” executive director Mariam Parker said in a release. “We are privileged to do this work and are so grateful and inspired by the many chefs, artisan producers, bartenders, wine- and spirit-makers who have contributed to our remarkable culinary landscape.”

How to make a snack necklace for a beer festival or football tailgate

I saw a clever snack hack on the internet the other day. With the Texas Craft Beer Festival coming up this weekend and several more UT home games this football season, you might find yourself drinking beer outside and wishing you had a snack.

Snack mixes that aren’t too crumbly or oily can be strung on a ribbon, string or thread to make a snack necklace. Via Creative Commons.

And let’s be honest, no one will judge if you make a snack necklace for watching Netflix on the couch.

What’s a snack necklace? The Austin-based blogger behind Big World, Small Girl posted a photo of a pretzel- and snack mix-lined ribbon that served as an easy way to snack while drinking beer at the Great American Beer Festival. Like the candy necklaces of our youth, this salty snack necklace provides easy access to a quick nibble on Gardetto’s, pork rinds or even chips whenever you feel like it.

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Some things to keep in mind: Thin, oily chips aren’t a good idea for this, but pretzels and the hardier snacks in the snack aisle are. If you’re worried about your shirt getting greasy, don’t use pork rinds. If you don’t care, you’ll be the most popular person at the party. Popcorn isn’t a bad idea, but you might feel like a Christmas tree if you only use popcorn. Cheez-Its will play a prominent role in any snack necklace I make for my future beer festival-going self, but I’d also be tempted to put some beef jerky on there, too.

Caitlin tied Twix bars to her necklace because she wanted something sweet with the savory, but she said she might reconsider it this year because the chocolate melted.

You could use string, thread or ribbon for this, depending on what you’re trying to string together. I use a needle and thread to make popcorn necklaces at Christmastime, but one commenter on Caitlin’s post said they use bamboo skewers to poke holes in artisan bread so they can thread it on butcher’s twine.


What’s for Dinner Tonight: Spiced salmon with mango salsa

Fruit salsa is OK with chips, but the sweetness really shines when you pair it with a savory meat, such as grilled pork or salmon.

Spiced salmon with mango salsa from “Spice Spice Baby.” Contributed by Wayne Wong.

This coriander-cumin salmon from Kanchan Koya’s “Spice Spice Baby: 100 Recipes With Healing Spices for Your Family Table” (Spice Spice Baby, $35) benefits from the bright flavors of the salsa. You can make the salsa as spicy as you prefer, and though you can use frozen fruit, the mangoes at local grocery stores are perfectly ripe and inexpensive right now.

Spiced Salmon with Mango Salsa

I adore fruit with fish and meat — mangoes with salmon, peaches with pork, prunes with chicken, pears with lamb, and so on. The spice, citrus and chile are the bridge between the fruit’s sweetness and the meat’s umami flavors. The results are scrumptious. Serve this with a side of white rice and guacamole.

— Kanchan Koya

For the fish:

Four 6-ounce salmon fillets, preferably wild-caught
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
For the mango salsa:
1 cup chopped, ripe mango
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1/2 to 1 teaspoon lime juice

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle the salmon fillets with the salt and spices. Place in an ovenproof dish or sheet pan. Bake in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, depending on how rare or cooked you prefer.

While the fish is cooking, mix together the salsa ingredients. Taste and adjust the salt and lime. Spoon the salsa over the cooked fish and serve right away. Serves 4.

— From “Spice Spice Baby: 100 Recipes with Healing Spices for your Family Table” by Kanchan Koya (Spice Spice Baby, $35)

Salt-baked chicken and chocolate mousse: What was the best recipe from the year you were born?

Food & Wine magazine is turning 40 this month, and to celebrate, the magazine compiled 40 recipes that have stood the test of time. They call them the best-ever recipes, but they also reflect how food culture and food media have changed over the past four decades.

I was born in 1983, when they featured a salt-baked chicken inspired by a dish from the Hakka region of China. I’ve never had a dish like this, but I can see that it reflected Americans’ love of Chinese cuisine in the 1980s and its budding interest in regionalism, even within what we then called “ethnic food.”

Many of you might have been born before 1978, but I think you’ll still enjoy this list that tracks the evolution of what we’d call American cuisine, which has always been a compendium of global cuisines.

1978 — Jacques Pepin’s Grand Marnier Souffle, an “ethereal recipe” that is “just as good today as it was 40 years ago.” At 82, Pepin has been a longtime contributor to Food & Wine magazine and he is still involved with it today.

1979 — Potato and Egg Pie with Bacon and Creme Fraiche from Andre Soltner, the chef-owner of an upscale Manhattan restaurant, Lutece, which was open for 40 years before closing in 2004.

French Chef Paul Bocuse, seen here in 2011, died earlier this year. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

1980 — Poulet au Vinaigre from the famed French master chef Paul Bocuse, who died earlier this year at 91.

1981 — Soboro Donburi, a Japanese meat-and-rice dish from Elizabeth Andoh, who has lived in Japan since 1967 and written several cookbooks on the cuisine.

1982 — Poached Eggs with Red Wine Sauce, a French spin on an American breakfast from culinary school founder Anne Willan.

1983 — Hakka-style Salt-Baked Chicken, a dish from southeast China in that a whole chicken is baked in a pot of salt.

1984 — Craig Claiborne’s Ultimate Chocolate Mousse from the esteemed New York Times restaurant critic, who took over as the newspaper’s food editor in 1957 and expanded its coverage of chefs and restaurants. He died in 2000.

Before Emeril Lagasse was a TV star, he was the head chef at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, a restaurant that has been open since 1880. In 2000, he invited Julia Child to be a guest on his Food Network TV show. She died in 2004. (AP Photo/Jim Cooper)

1985 —Shrimp Creole from Emeril Lagasse, the former Commander’s Palace chef who was not yet a Food Network star when this recipe published.

1986 — Garlicky Braised Lamb Shanks with Sweet Peppers from Jeremiah Tower, the California chef behind Bay-area restaurants Chez Panisse and Stars, where he served this dish. Tower, Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck are credited with establishing and popularizing California cuisine.

1987 — Deep Dish All American Cinnamon Apple Pie from baking expert Rose Levy Beranbaum, who macerates the apples in sugar before making a syrup from the apple liquid that releases from the fruit.

1988 — Grilled Korean-Style Short Ribs from Linda Burum and Linda Merinoff, Los Angeles food writers who shared this recipe with Food & Wine readers, most of whom weren’t yet hip to Korean cuisine.

1989 — Sizzling Pancakes, a savory Vietnamese pancake the Connecticut-based chef Binh Duong.

Alice Waters has owned Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., since 1971. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

1990 — Baked Goat Cheese Salad, Alice Waters’ iconic salad from Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

1991 — Mom’s Citrus Meringue Pie from African-American foodways historian Jessica B. Harris.

1992 — Seared Salmon with Summer Vegetables from Michael Romano, the chef behind Union Square Cafe in New York City.

1993 — Swordfish Sicilian-Style from Marcella Hazan, the legendary Italian cookbook author who was a Food & Wine contributor in the 1990s.

1994 — Julia Child’s Ham Steaks in Maderia Sauce, a recipe that celebrated the humble cut of pork that America’s best-known food personality called a “fast entree for fancy people.”

1995 — Jerk Chicken from Paul Chung, a “self-taught cook of Chinese-Jamaican descent who worked in the Food & Wine mail room.”

1996 — Vegetable Hot-and-Sour Soup from Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, a columnist who covered low-fat cooking for the magazine during the height of the low-fat diet era.

1997 — Catalan Tomato Bread, a Spanish recipe from cookbook author and TV host Steven Raichlen, who continues to write grilling books today.

1998 — Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken from Charles Phan, chef/owner of The Slanted Door in San Francisco, who said this was one of his favorite (and easiest) dishes to make at home.

1999 — Pizza with Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche and Caviar, a very Wolfgang Puck recipe from the Austrian-born, California chef who became known as the Oscars chef.

2000 — Fried Chicken with Tomato Gravy and the Best Biscuits from the legendary Southern chef Edna Lewis, who died in 2006, and her longtime assistant Scott Peacock.

2001 — Shrimp and Corn Chowder from Ecuadorian chef Maricel Presilla, who continues to run a restaurant in New Jersey called Zafra.

2002 — Pasta with Sausage, Mustard and Basil from British cookbook author Nigel Slater.

2003 — Chicken Tikka Masala, “the perfect gateway dish to Indian cooking” from Grace Parisi, a Food & Wine recipe developer.

2004 — Breton Butter Cake, a spin on the famed french pastry kouign-amann from cookbook authors Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford.

2005 — Antipasto Salad with Green Olive Tapenade, a recipe from former Best New Chef winner Nancy Silverton.

2006 — Crispy Okra Salad, which calls for thinly sliced strips of okra, a technique from Indian chef Suvir Saran.

2007 — Pan-Roasted Salmon with Tomato Vinaigrette, a “Queer Eye”-worthy dish from “Chopped” host Ted Allen, who was on the original season of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

2008 — Tiki Snack Mix, a nod to the revived tiki cocktail movement, from Food & Wine recipe developer Melissa Rubel Jacobson.

2009 — Kogi Dogs from Roy Choi, the Los Angeles-based chef who got his start in a food trailer and was the first to win a Best New Chef award without running a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

2010 — Mom’s Chocolate Cake, a moist layer cake whose recipe had been passed down through several generations and ultimately landed in the lands of longtime Food & Wine test kitchen supervisor Marcia Kiesel.

2011 — Kimchi Creamed Collard Greens from Hugh Acheson, the Georgia-based chef who in 2002 was named a Best New Chef for the magazine and has since appeared as a judge on “Top Chef.”

2012 — Baltimore-Style Crab Cakes, a recipe from TV host Andrew Zimmern that has become the most popular dish on Food & Wine’s website since it was published six years ago.

2013 — Farro and Green Olive Salad with Walnuts and Raisins from Heidi Swanson, one of the early food bloggers who turned her website, 101 Cookbooks, into a thriving food writing career.

2014 — Almost-Instant Soft Serve, a recipe from Justin Chapple, who oversees the magazine’s Mad Genius series, which includes videos and articles about smart food hacks.

2015 — Spaghetti with Clams and Braised Greens, a new spin on an old classic from Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner in North Carolina.

2016 — Tomatoes with Herbs and Almond Vinaigrette, whose dressing from Dan Kluger of New York City’s Loring Place is what caught the eye of Food & Wine editors.

2017 — Chickpea and Kale in Spicy Pomodoro Sauce, another new spin on an old classic, this time from Missy Robbins, a former Best New Chef winner known for her restaurant, Lilia.

2018 — Miznon’s Whole Roasted Cauliflower, the signature dish at Eyal Shani’s restaurants from Tel Aviv to Melbourne and now New York City.




When you’re swimming in eggplant, here’s a knock-off guacamole to use ’em up

When you’re growing food in Texas, it’s often all or nothing.

We’ll get months of dry hot weather, which peppers and eggplant love, and then we’ll get weeks of rain, which can delay fall planting but also revive those crops that are barely hanging on.

Eggplant is a hardy summer crop that not everybody loves, but farmer Hannah Beall found a way to make an eggplant dip that tastes a lot like guacamole. Contributed by @hannahsim86

We are squarely in that in-between season right now. Local farmers are eager to plant those fall crops, but they are also trying to use up (and sell) the rest of the summer bounty.

At Hairston Creek Farm, where Hannah Beall and her husband are working with longtime farmer Gary Rowland to take over his organic farm, they are still slinging more eggplant than they know what to do with. Over the weekend, she posted a recipe for eggplant guacamole that stood out but because it’s good to have recipes to help you use up produce you might not otherwise use.

RELATED: At Farmer Starter, students get a crash course in Farming 101

I understand that the use of the term “guacamole” will rile up plenty of people because this recipe doesn’t contain avocado, but I think we can let this one lie. You can always add avocado in addition to the eggplant, but the goal here is using up a crop that might otherwise sit unused in your refrigerator.

You can find Beall at the Texas Farmers’ Market at Lakeline on Saturdays, as well as @hannahsim86 on Instagram.

This guacamole-inspired dip is made with eggplants, peppers, cilantro and lime. Contributed by @hannahsim86

Eggplant Guacamole

3 cloves garlic
3 serranos, whole
1 large jalapeno, seeded
1 1/2 cups peeled and roasted eggplant
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon lime juice
Handful of cilantro
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped onion

In a blender or food processor, combine the garlic, peppers, eggplant, salt, cumin and lime juice. Blend until smooth and then add cilantro, tomato and onion and pulse to reach the desired consistency. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

— Hannah Beall

How to make the prettiest apple tart you’ve ever seen

Apple season is so close, I can smell it.

Every fall, I try to go back to Missouri to buy fresh apples from the orchards near my hometown, and although those apples aren’t quite ready yet, the change of seasons is upon us.

Apples from Marionville, Missouri, are one of my favorite things about going back to my hometown in fall. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

If you’re celebrating the Jewish New Year right now, you’re definitely thinking about apples, and even if you aren’t, it’s a good time to celebrate the sweet things in life.

I was so impressed by this apple tart from Irvin Lin’s new book, “Marbled, Swirled, and Layered: 150 Recipes and Variations for Artful Bars, Cookies, Pies, Cakes, and More” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30), that I wanted to run it ahead of a weekend when you might have time to play around with making the apple roses.

Instead of making a traditional apple pie, you can make an apple tart filled with “roses” made with thinly sliced apples. Contributed by Linda Xiao.

Lin gives detailed instructions about how to roll up thin slices of apples, and although yours might not look quite as good as his, it’s still a fun technique to practice, especially with the fall holidays coming up.

RECIPE: Maple Apple Walnut Crunch Pie

If this recipe feels too difficult but you still want to bake something with apples, might I suggest these applesauce muffins or this apple strudel. This double layer apple crisp is probably the easiest apple dessert I can think of, but here’s a recipe for caramel apples, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Apple Roses and Spiced Brown Butter Tart

When I know I have to bust out an impressive dessert, I opt for something like this show-stopping tart, which only requires a little bit of dexterity. Despite the way it looks, this recipe isn’t too difficult, but it’s always a gorgeous presentation dessert for dinner parties. The best part is that it looks like you spent a lot of money at the fancy-pants local bakery. Act all indignant when your guests ask you where you bought it, but secretly know that it actually didn’t take too much effort.

— Irvin Lin

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup dark rum
For the browned butter filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
3 cardamom pods
1 star anise
1 large vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Zest of 1 orange
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
For the apple roses:
2 1/2 pounds (about 5 medium) red-skinned firm apples, such as Braeburn, Gala or Jonagold
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the crumble topping:
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Make the crust: Combine both flours, the sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and sprinkle over the dry ingredients. Toss the butter cubes with your hands to coat, then squeeze until they flatten out, squeezing and tossing until the dough starts to resemble crumbly cornmeal with bits of butter still in flattened chunks. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the rum, then drizzle the liquid over the flour-butter mixture and fold together. As the dry ingredients become moister, work the ingredients together with your hands until they come together and form a dough. If the dough seems too sticky, sprinkle a little more flour into it. If the dough seems too dry, add a little more rum or cold water. The dough should be soft. Flatten the dough into a disk about 1 inch thick, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough into a 14-inch circle, but don’t worry if isn’t perfect. This dough is really forgiving. Fit the dough into a 10-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. This recipe makes a little more dough than necessary, so if you need to, use the extra dough to patch up any holes or tears. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork all over, then line with a piece of parchment paper and fill with dried beans, uncooked rice, or pie weights. Freeze the lined pan for about 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Set the tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until very lightly golden brown around the edges, about 10 minutes. Let the crust cool on a wire rack, and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Make the browned butter filling: Combine the butter, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and star anise in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the pan, then add the vanilla pod as well. Add the nutmeg and orange zest. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter melts and starts to brown and turn fragrant. Once the butter starts to brown, turn the heat off and let the residual heat bring the butter to the right point. You don’t want to burn the butterfat, you just want it golden brown. Discard the cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, and vanilla pod. Let cool to room temperature.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the butter, scraping the brown bits at the bottom of the pan into the bowl. Pour the filling into the crust.

Here’s how to make the apple roses: Cut the apples by placing the apple on its bottom and slicing down near the core, but not close enough to get any seeds. Rotate the apple 90 degrees and slice down again. Repeat two more times until you have a rectangular core, which you can discard, and 4 apple chunks with skin on them. Place the apple chunks flat side down on the cutting board and cut thin lengthwise slices with a sharp knife (or use a mandoline). Each slice should have one flat edge and one rounded edge with a thin piece of red skin. Place the apple slices in a large microwave-safe bowl with the lemon juice. Toss to coat to prevent the apple slices from turning brown. Slice all the apples, continuing to toss the apple slices with the lemon juice as you go. Add the sugar and butter and toss to coat.

Microwave the apple mixture for 1 minute. You don’t want to completely cook the apples, just soften them enough to make them pliable. If they are still too crisp and break when you bend them, cook in additional 15-second increments, testing until they are bendable. The amount of time will depend on how thick you cut the apples and how powerful your microwave is.

Starting with the thinnest, smallest piece you can find, curl the apple slice, with the skin side at the top, into a spiral, forming a rose-like shape. Wrap another, larger slice around the first slice. Build a rose with as many slices as you can. Use a spatula (or the side of a large chef‘s knife) to move the apple rose to the filled tart crust. The filling should help hold the apple roses together. Repeat with the rest of the apple slices, until you have tightly filled the entire surface of the tart. Any gaps in the tart where the roses don’t quite fit can be filled with extra apple slices and smaller roses.

To make the crumble topping: Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and stir together with a fork. Drizzle the butter over the dry ingredients and toss until crumbs start to form and stick together. Sprinkle the crumble in a ring, about 1 inch wide, around the edge of the tart on top of the apples.

Bake until the apples are a rich golden brown and the filling has set and looks puffy and slightly golden, 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before releasing the tart from the sides of the pan. Serves 10.

— From “Marbled, Swirled, and Layered: 150 Recipes and Variations for Artful Bars, Cookies, Pies, Cakes, and More” by Irvin Lin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)

Got an old piece of wedding cake in your freezer? We want to see it.

Earlier this week, I told you the story of Zollie and William Goodrich Jones, a couple that married in Belton in 1890 and whose legacy lives on in a piece of their wedding cake.

Beth Norvell, the associate director of alumni relations at Mary Hardin-Baylor, found this piece of Zollie Luther’s wedding cake from 1890 in the museum’s archives. She doesn’t know what the cake is made of, but she said they are hoping to use historical recipes from the era to create a similar cake for alumni functions. Contributed by Beth Norvell

This delightful little gem of dried organic material is housed in the archive of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. It’s shriveled up and brown and not at all appetizing, but it got me thinking about the other pieces of wedding cake that are housed in freezers around Central Texas and the stories they tell.

Zollie Luther married William Goodrich in December of 1890, and Mary Hardin-Baylor University still has a piece of their wedding cake. Baylor’s Texas Collection has many photos, letters and papers from both Zollie and her sister’s family. Zollie died in 1934 at the age of 69. Courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University

The tradition of a couple keeping a piece of wedding cake to eat for good luck on their first anniversary dates back to the 1700s, when a cake could be preserved with boozy fruit or wine, but since the advent of freezers, we’ve been keeping them around for a lot longer than a year.

I’d love to hear stories about wedding cakes you might still have or ones you held onto for a long time, but eventually decided to toss. You can email me at abroyles@statesman.com or call 512-912-2504.

Zollie Luther, a year or two before her marriage. Courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University

To get you thinking about love a long time ago, here’s a poem that William wrote to Zollie on their 40th anniversary in 1930:

Forty years we’ve garnered joy,
Along with tears that oft annoy.

Forty cycles, fulsome, sweet,
where sunbeams and the shadows meet.

Forty dividends in life,
Without regrets and without strife.

Forty stars in firmament,
Have blazed the trail to life’s content.

Forty morns of silken lint,
Have twined our lives with love’s imprint.

Forty eves of golden tint,
Coined into years, a precious mint.

Forty hills climbed in the past,
Leading upward, reached at last;

Trails the path to summits crest,
Lengthening shadows in the west.

Forty sighs at set of sun,
Comes the Master’s voice: ‘Well done’

— William Goodrich Jones (Waco, Texas)

(From Luther-Bagby collection, Accession #1337, Box #1, Folder #16, The Texas Collection, Baylor University)


Walmart is selling $10 ramen. It’s fancy, frozen and actually quite good.

You know upscale ramen has become mainstream when Walmart gets in on the game.

This bowl of ramen came from a packaged kit that Walmart is now selling in its frozen section. The soft boiled eggs, however, don’t come in the kit. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

I grew up eating the inexpensive packaged ramen noodles that you can buy everywhere, but I was surprised to recently find a $9.48 bag of frozen fancy ramen at the country’s largest grocer.

Although Kroger is the largest dedicated supermarket chain, Walmart easily sells the most groceries in the country. About 25 percent of Americans buy their groceries at Walmart, so it’s relevant to overall grocery trends when a product like this hits their shelves.

In fact, I haven’t seen a ramen product like this on the market.

This $10 ramen meal kit was easy to make and tasted much better than expected. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Retailing at just a few cents shy of $10 for two servings, it’s a meal kit with a bag of frozen broth concentrate, a small bag of frozen cooked chicken and four “nests” of noodles. After thawing the broth, you add it to a pot with 2 1/2 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Add the chicken and the noodles and heat again until everything is warm, which took a little longer than the two minutes described on the package.

I ended up making some soft-boiled eggs in my multi-cooker while the ramen finished on the stove, and I was surprised by how intensely flavored the broth is and how many noodles came in the package. Some reviewers online have said that the broth is too salty, but you can always add more liquid to thin it out. With a few dumplings on the side, you could easily feed four people with this kit.

My ramen-loving son wasn’t a huge fan of the flavors, but he tends to like the everyday ramen seasoning. But I loved seeing onions and herbs floating around the dark, thick soup. The noodles had just the right bite to them, and the chicken didn’t have any “off” tastes. In fact, the ramen was so good that I’m having the leftovers for lunch today and livestreaming a few more thoughts on why a product like this caught my eye.

Join me for the livestream at noon at facebook.com/austin360.